Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What kind of mother...?

Here's an idea -- forget the labels and just be a parent

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Jae C. Hong / The Associated Press archives
There�s no shortage of labels for the ways parents raise their kids these days, but the labels don�t always fit.

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Jae C. Hong / The Associated Press archives There�s no shortage of labels for the ways parents raise their kids these days, but the labels don�t always fit.

Are you a tiger mother? How about a French maman? Non? Perhaps you fancy yourself an attachment parent or subscribe to the free-range philosophy. It seems no matter how you choose to raise your children, there's a name for it.

Truth is, most days I "parent" based on my family's needs and what the day throws my way. If I want the kids out of the house, then I'm free-range, insofar as they stay in the backyard. When there's wine with dinner again, perhaps it's because I'm feeling tr®s Franßais. And to the kid giving my autistic son a hard time, let me "snowplow" the problem away. I wear different parenting hats based on the situation because I find parenting is rarely black and white.

This idea that you can be a certain type of parent is new. When my mom was raising me and my sister in the 1970s, I don't think she gave much thought to how she interacted with us. She was a stay-at-home mom, busy doing chores and preparing dinner while we entertained ourselves. Dr. Spock (the parenting guru, not the dude from Star Trek) pretty much had a corner on the mommy-advice market back then and his message was: "You know more than you think you do." Mom must have taken this to heart because, unlike my generation, she didn't agonize over every parenting decision. So when did everything change? Why the push to categorize how parents diaper or discipline their kids?

Julie Freedman Smith of Parenting Power, a company that coaches moms and dads on everyday parenting challenges, chalks it up to modern family life. Thanks to Molly Maid, washing machines and the demise of ironing, moms have less to do to keep busy, so we wring our hands over parenting. We go online for answers and perhaps come away with parenting ideas -- or a "style" -- that fits with our values.

"I think the labelling is very much a phenomenon of media and social media. All of a sudden there's a new term out there, so it becomes a buzz word very quickly," says Gillian Ranson, an associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of Calgary.

Take "tiger mom" and "French mother." In the past couple of years, those parenting labels went viral after two very different books, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Bringing Up B©b©: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, made a big splash in North America. Headlines were suddenly calling out tiger moms as unloving drill sergeants or trumpeting the benefits of the arms-length French-mother approach.

More recently, the book Minimalist Parenting (as in decorating, it's a less-is-more method) made the news, preceded by the idea of the "snowplow parent." This gem was coined by an American mom who scored her son a spot on the baseball team by bribing the coach with vanilla cupcakes, thus "snowplowing" the way for him. And just last week, Canadian parenting author Kathy Buckworth was in town promoting her latest book, I Am So The Boss Of You. It applies office-management strategies to the home, giving mom permission to boss around the new hires (her children). Behold, the corporate mom.

"Do parents take all of this stuff seriously?" Ranson asks rhetorically. No, they likely read snippets about different parenting styles here and there and take away the points that resonate.

"People are much more selective and intelligent than we give them credit for," she says.

Parenting speaker Judy Arnall agrees. Though the mother of five calls herself an attachment parent, she concedes she only fits that label maybe 70 per cent of the time. "Nobody is 100 per cent of a label -- we're little bits of everything," Arnall says.

Or we're exactly the mom we're supposed to be for the children we have, says Freedman Smith.

"If we're smart, we'll put our heads down and do our own thing," she says. "I'm a 'Julie Freedman Smith' kind of parent."

You could call Calgary mom Rebecca O'Brien an "intentional parent," but she might not like it.

"I am not interested in being labelled at all," says the mother of two. "We have all these people sitting behind desks telling us what category we should be in. Life isn't like that."

Instead, O'Brien is just trying to raise her 16-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son to be independent adults. For guidance, she loosely adheres to a philosophy she calls "benign neglect." In other words, she doesn't do for her children what they can do for themselves.

"I'm probably doing all the things they say not to do," O'Brien jokes, "but my kids are nice people. They have compassion and empathy." And hopefully, she says, they will move out when they reach adulthood instead of staying in her basement playing video games.

In the end, most parents would agree it's the outcome that matters.

 

-- Postmedia News

, not the specific steps or techniques taken to reach the glorious moment when the children hand over the spare key for good. Then, it won't matter if you bullied them out like a tiger mom, bought them their own house like a snowplow-helicopter hybrid or did whatever worked at the time.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2013 A2

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